Spectator sport

Give Robshaw a break

The England captain is being pilloried for a wise decision, even if it didn’t work out right

3 October 2015

9:00 AM

3 October 2015

9:00 AM

Pity poor Chris Robshaw. England’s sturdy captain might have a knockout girlfriend and exceptional skills on the cappuccino machine, but he has taken one hell of a pounding from Her Majesty’s armchair battalion of former players and coaches, much more than he took from Sam Warburton at Twickenham on Saturday. Give the guy a break. His decision to go for a line-out and set up a possible winning try rather than attempt a very difficult penalty kick at goal to draw ‘defied belief’ said one newspaper, the same paper that described a similar decision by the Japan captain Michael Leitch in that miraculous last-gasp victory over South Africa as ‘faultless’. One captain is bold and brave, the other muddled and confused, suffering a ‘moment of madness’. Oh please.

Here’s a few things: the kick was never a certainty, even with Owen Farrell in spectacularly good form; had he missed, the Welsh would have had possession and could have advanced upfield, scored and deprived England of even a losing bonus point; World Cup-winning sides tend to win all their games so if you want to win the cup, you must win your games, and not settle for a functional draw when the chance is there for a romantic win. Poor Robshaw: if the lineout ensuing from the penalty hadn’t been so shockingly bad, England might have scored their try and all the moaners would be saluting a brave gamble.


In an odd and furious newspaper article this week a former World Cup-winning coach (yes, it was Sir Clive since you ask) argues that there wasn’t enough planning, or if there was, it was ignored. The idea that you might go into a World Cup without having already decided at least nine months before what you were going to do if you got a penalty out wide with two minutes to go and were trailing by three points in your second group match is clearly anathema to Wooders. Well OK, sport might be run by the guys with the laptops these days, but there is something very heartening to see all that come crashing down and the game become a bunch of battered and knackered blokes on the pitch, making the decisions themselves.

And otherwise, what a wonderful tournament and what a fantastic measure of the growth of world rugby. Before the World Cup is even halfway through, total attendance will have passed the entire audience for the whole of the last World Cup in Britain in 1991. Good show.

Forget your wounded Vunipolas and your Youngs boys, the best sporting brothers around are the mighty Murrays, Jamie and Andy. Doubles tennis is what most people play but fewest watch. It’s always felt like the vaguely unwanted late arrival at the grand slams. But anyone who didn’t catch last month’s epic David Cup semifinal between Britain and Australia missed a feast. Even through the TV you could feel the hysteria at the Glasgow Emirates arena, fuelled by the inexhaustible chanting, cheering and stomping from the boys and girls of the ‘Stirling Uni Barmy Army’, for some years the unofficial cheerleaders of Britain’s tennis teams. A fantastic job they did too, though how many can actually be found in the lecture halls of Stirling is open to question.

I loved them, and you could see the Murray boys riding on the surge of emotion in the hall. There was Judy of course, who may even have had a wee bottle of Sauv Blanc with her as she fist-pumped her boys to victory. Team of the year? Well, there’s only two guys in it and they’re both called Murray. And if Britain win the Davis Cup at the end of November in Ghent, for the first time since the 1930s, it will be a huge personal triumph for Andy. Give that man a knighthood at the least.

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  • whiteafrican13

    Comparing the respective decisions of Leitch for Japan and Robshaw for England is silly.
    – Leitch was leading a team in the ascendancy (playing against 14 men) and had literally nothing to lose. They also had nothing to gain from a draw, since they were never realistically going to get out of their group.
    – Robshaw was leading a team that had just turned a 10 point lead into a 3 point deficit. They did have something to gain from a draw – had they taken it then they would only have to match Wales’s result against Australia to go through. But they turned down the draw, lost, and now they have to beat Australia or become the first host nation to get dumped out of the competition at the group stage.
    So, yeah, Robshaw pretty much deserves the criticism.

  • Johnny Foreigner

    Shouldn’t people be concentrating on all the penalties committed before this kick to the corner, which was just a decision, that didn’t pay off, not a mistake. Penalties lose games.

    • njt55

      Four of which – as acknowledged by the IRB – should not have been given

  • BillRees

    If Roger Alton believes that Robshaw shouldn’t cop any blame for that crazy decision at the end then I’m afraid he doesn’t know much about rugby.

    Farrell would have probably kicked the goal. But even if he failed to do so, England would have got the ball back with the chance to go for a winning try.

    As it was, they demonstrated a lamentable lack of ability in the lineout that led to the final whistle.

    But at least Roger didn’t blame Sam Burgess for the defeat, which Paul Hayward managed to do in a Telegraph article that was posted within minutes of the final whistle and that had plainly been written before the game started.

    • Ron Parker

      I think you are Welsh Bill Rees?

    • Ian Walker

      Alton is correct – the decision to kick for the corner was the right call – kicking for the posts would have been a tough shot from so far out wide and a miss would have ended the game.

      The ensuing lineout was the problem – a horribly telegraphed short throw between a pair of nervous forwards who had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes. Arguably it was the coach’s decision to match the Welsh injury replacements that did the damage. But it’s just a game, and it was a cracking one, plus it sets up a massive group decider between England and Australia which might in a different universe be a dull kicking match between two second-string sides.

      • A miss wouldn’t have ended the game!

  • Kevin Ronald Lohse

    But Farrell might not have kicked the goal, and England’s lineout had been working well through the game. Robshaw’s decision was a fair one. Someone who knew a bit about Rugby would have recognised that the game had been lost 20 minutes earlier when England, 10 points up, failed to respond to a desperate last-gasp surge by Wales. In the end, the Welsh deserved their win, but if they come across a ref who insists on straight lineout ball they’re buggered.

    • njt55

      Glad someone else noted the line-out ball issue. It was the same against Fiji, I didn’t see one straight throw from the Welsh

      • correct, and the gap was closed to nothing every time: very poor officials.

  • Getalife

    But did…. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Tamerlane

    Thank you. Finally. Had he taken the penalty and the draw he would have taken endless flak for not being competitive enough in a match England could have won. He would have had the decision held against him (and up against Japan’s decision v SA) and brought up match after match after match well into the future, replayed over and over again as evidence of a cautious, indecisive Captain.

    England were beaten by:
    1. A brilliant try (and were I a Welshman I’d pretty annoyed this is overlooked)
    2. Being crap under the high ball – again
    3. Being unable to close out a game.

    Move on, learn, belt up. Thank you Roger Alton.

  • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

    “MAKE THEM GIANTS”…….. ha……ha…….ha

    • Tamerlane

      Grow up. Baby.

      • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

        Like a GIANT !!!…. ha….ha

    • sunnydayrider

      I bet they’re still celebrating in Sweaty Sockland. Double Deep Fried Mars Bars and more austerity all round,

      • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

        Racist C***

        • Tamerlane

          You’re the twat celebrating English defeat, don’t see you celebrating Scottish success anywhere. Not sure you would know how to celebrate Scottish success. You in a nutshell.

          • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

            Spoken like the bitter, racist C*** that you are.

          • Tamerlane

            You’re pathetic.

  • slyblade

    The game was lost before that, Wales were in the ascendancy and were getting better as the game got towards the end, England were on the back foot. We didn’t look like scoring in the second half and it was credit to the lads to hold on to their lead for so long. In the end it was a tight match but the best side won imop. I say that as an England supporter

  • stag

    England didn’t lose the game simply because of Robshaw’s decision, that is clear enough. But it was still a bad decision. Percentages are the name of the game, and Robshaw miscalculated. There was a better chance of Farrell kicking the goal than England scoring from the lineout. Perhaps he got carried away – as we all did – by Japan’s heroics.

    Anyway, what happened happened. I agree he’s taken rather too much flak for it. Robshaw was not the reason England lost the game.

  • tatle

    What Sir Clive means by planning, is getting hold of and studying the opponent’s line out practices repeatedly and preparing for them.

    It was a good gamble, and missing the kick could have messed Farrell up psychologically.

    • Ron Parker

      Sir Clive should not make such judgements when he dropped many clangers himself and was lucky to be in the right place at the right time-I think Lancaster is a better coach as you cannot plan everthing-he dooes not need defending ‘tatle’

  • Ron Parker

    A good well balanced article but now England face not even getting into the knock out stage!

    • LG

      Prophetic.

  • RWP

    I support the decision to go for the line-out for what would be the last play of the match. A line-out 10 metres from the Welsh try-line – for a team with a very good line-out and driving maul. England’s fault was the execution – the short line-out throw allowing the Welsh an opportunity to push England into touch. I recall England turning turning down a kick at goal in the 76/77th minute when 3 points down – that would be the time to take a shot at 3 points, with a potential further opportunity to drive towards the Welsh try-line with the final play or two of the game.

    Robbo isn’t the greatest when dealing with Refs, however don’t forget that nor was Martin Johnson. A couple of weeks ago I revisited the famous NZ V Eng Test in Wellington in 2003, when despite at one stage being reduced to 13 men, The Red Rose secured a famous victory. Jonno argued with the Ref for 80 minutes and treated him with contempt throughout to the point where all marginals or 50/50s went NZs way.

  • cg

    Ha, ha, the rugby snobs are in mourning. It really is a terrible sport, which never misses an opportunity to sneer at better and more popular sports. It relies solely on negativity (forcing penalties) and then kicking at open goals.

    • Jules Wright

      You’ve clearly neither watched nor played it. Peasant.

      • cg

        You prove my point. Snob.

  • Solage 1386

    Nice-looking bloke. Why is it that beardless men always look so unmanly?

  • sunnydayrider

    Good article until you brought up the those petulant spoilt brats, The Murrays. What on earth those two mamby-pamby-cissy-wissy drama queens have to do with Rugby, or any other sport that requires a certain amount of “cojones”, baffles me.

  • Chris Robshaw: wowser!

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